Many of us take a certain level of pride in “being busy”. It’s a badge of honour, showing the world how tirelessly we dedicate ourselves to our responsibilities. It is also a form of self-validation, stroking the ego with a sense of worth.

Like many of the words and actions that give us a rush of dopamine, though, “busyness” can spur on behaviour that is inherently negative.

Too Busy or Not Too Busy

That is the question. Researchers have found that the illusion of busyness is not only good for an individual’s ego but even convinces others to attribute higher status to an outwardly-busy person. That combination of internal and external validation can be extremely difficult to counter.

Why counter it? Well, this seemingly benign illusion of being busy is usually a cover for a less pleasant aspect of life:

  • Family life – Escaping into work can be effective mask for avoiding difficult conversations
  • Personal life – Some use the pressure of work as an excuse for indulging in their vices
  • Social life – Work can be a convenient excuse to get out of social commitments

In these scenarios, the individual is not actually busy but simply exploiting that illusion. Meanwhile, the underlying problems are exacerbated the longer they are ignored.

Not all “busy” people fall into this category; some just do not manage time well. Either way, prolonged periods of time without adequate rest also contribute to feelings of anxiety, stress, loneliness and even anger. Sometimes, this can manifest physical symptoms such as headaches, insomnia, sexual dysfunction, and heart disease.

Un-Busy Yourself

If you find yourself perpetually occupied with work-related tasks, ask yourself if you have your priorities right.

Are there things that you do not need to handle directly? Delegate them to a trusted subordinate or perhaps a qualified freelancer. Otherwise, approach your manager for a re-evaluation of how much of the load you can shoulder.

Ask yourself if you are spending an inordinate amount of time on low-value activities, for example, reading reports and checking emails. Trim your schedule to prioritize high-value tasks instead.

Use a timetable to block off time for essential non-work tasks. This could be family time, meditation breaks, or a vacation. Say “no” to interruptions when you do this.

Sometimes, it can be helpful to review where your life is heading altogether. Did you always see yourself on this career path? Perhaps a course correction, even a drastic one, could put you on the path to more free time, increased satisfaction, improved wellness and, perhaps most importantly, more happiness.

Need help adjusting your priorities? Reach out today.